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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Organizers of the Welcome to Palestine campaign said Sunday that the first day of the initiative has been a success, despite the fact that only two activists had been able to enter the West Bank.
“It was a success at a media level, but it was not a success at a human level in the sense that we were not able to have our friends with us,” coordinator Abdul-Fatah Abu Srour told reporters in Bethlehem.
Israeli police said that 43 activists were denied entry at Ben Gurion airport on Sunday and 12 were deported to their country of origin, Haaretz reported.
Nine activists who protested at the airport were held for questioning.
Organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh said that two participants had arrived on Sunday via Ben Gurion airport, but were not asked where they were going by Israeli authorities.
A total of between 15-20 people have managed to enter the West Bank so far to participate in the week’s agricultural, cultural and artistic events.
One of the activists, a French citizen, said that 31 out of 50 people in her group were barred from boarding their flight in Lyon airport, with the others prevented from entering Israel upon their arrival at Ben Gurion.
The Welcome to Palestine campaign was expecting around 1,500 people to arrive, but so far hundreds have been barred from boarding flights to Tel Aviv.
Earlier, organizers told Israeli daily Haaretz that more than 60 percent of the expected 1,500 had flights canceled by airlines, after Israel circulated a blacklist of passengers and warned it would fine carriers.
Organizers say Israel is subcontracting the occupation and asking others to do its dirty work, in reference to international airlines preventing participants from boarding their flights.
Some 25 organizations have invited internationals to visit Palestine from April 15-21 as part of the Welcome to Palestine week. Israel has denounced participants as provocateurs intent on confrontation with Israeli security forces.
The campaign has asked its guests to be open about their plans to visit the West Bank.
“We have shown that Israel pretends it is the only democracy in the Middle East,” coordinator Abdul-Fatah Abu Srour said.
“It is a real disaster for the Israeli government.”
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